Old Friends.......Hilario's Journey
Today I had the exact same conversation with one of my oldest friends that I had three days ago.
I should talk. My friend Peyton and I uphold the last vestiges of the Upper Carmel Valley Light Reading and General Soporific Society......and both of us have been caught in the last year re-reading a book that we had already read, and not figuring it out until the last chapters. We thought we were smart......
It is ironic that the UCVLRGSS was founded by me and the father of my friend of the dual conversations. Even though he was from an old school gold-mining family, and I am from an old-school Irish sea-going family, our paths crossed in weird ways.
He went to Cornell. I went to Cornell. He had a ton of Hawaiian experience.....I was born there, and my family is from there. His wife had my great aunt as an English instructor at Lone Mountain in SF. His daughter went to the same obscure Catholic school as my mom in Menlo Park......
This the best, though. Repeated before in this space, but apropos for today.
On September 22, 1949 the Dad of my old friend was the manager of the Ala Moana in Honolulu. At the time, my Gramps was the Marine Surveyor of Honolulu harbor, and my Pops was working for Castle and Cook in the Aloha Tower by the docks. My folks lived with the grandfolks above Diamond Head on Manalani Rise, in a house with koa wood panelling and papaya and hibiscus in the two acres that my mom would pick in the morning. You could see Lanai in the distance before coffee.......
My buddy, Dad of my now old friend......drank a bit. He loved drinking......not being drunk, but the whole ceremony of bars, ordering, bartenders, developing relationships, critiquing and battling back and forth. My buddy, my son (two years old or so at the time) and I used to hit every bar between Carmel and Lucia on yearly excursions.....just to compare notes.
Anyway. On the specified night in 1949, my buddy stayed late at the bar at the Ala Moana. Picture the bar at the Ala Moana in 1949 in Waikiki. No hotels, no trash.....just sand, moonlight and Diamond Head in the distance. Frangipani and plumaria on the breeze. 80 degree air and water......year around. I am assuming some gorgeous local female companionship.....but this could include his wife.
My buddy walked out of the bar after closing....... in search of his 1949 Studebaker coupe. As he drifted into the parking area, a coconut fell from a tree and hit him directly on the noggin...... and nearly killed him.
Luckily.....as always....the females arrived and saved the day, and rushed him to the hospital.....
Queen Liliokalani Hospital........ down by the Iolani Palace.
All was fine. After a day's stay, my buddy was released to continue his career.
The reason we knew the exact date 50 years later, was that I was born in that hospital.....on the same floor where my buddy was treated, on the same night.
So.....my buddy's first marriage did not quite make it. Too many coconuts, too many hula girls....who knows.
My buddy is related to all the old citizens of Carmel, and many of the current ones.....and wound up married to John Steinbeck's ex-wife, Carol, and living in Carmel Valley with all the original Meyer lemon trees in California.
Carol was a character in her own right. My other old friends from the movie business describe movie nights at their place on Carmel Beach where Carol would arrive with bottles of riesling and wind up sleeping under the table that held the projector.....after exhausting herself with critical comments of the films being shown......comments that were always right on the money.
Carol had a particular vision.
One day at a flea market in Old Monterey she happened upon an old photograph of a Mexican vaquero. She fell in love at first sight and bought the thing for a few cents. She named him "Hilario". She gave the image a big fat Marilyn Monroe kiss and hung it on her wall......the wall she shared with my buddy.
Decades later, Carol eventually died....and then, decades even later my buddy eventually died. During the emotion of the wake and all that, my buddy's daughter gave me Hilario. This was more than a gift.....this was something that resonated through our whole family.
From time to time my buddy's family has checked in about Hilario.......I can tell that they might perhaps regret the spontaneous generosity that brought him to me, but they are way too civilized and kind to say anything directly about the matter.
Hilario has remained an important presence in our visual family ever since.......
For a while I hung him at Silver Jones. One sad day, my aggressive cleaning lady....who also loved Hilario..... saw the lipstick print on his cheek, was offended, and scrubbed it off.
After that, we moved Hilario back to my house.
Our house is somewhat chaotic. We are almost never here.....so things pile up. My office machine is not a computer, but a leaf-blower.
As I have mentioned before....chefs come in different colors: visual, textural, taste-oriented, political, scent-oriented.....
I must be visual. I have always worked for visual artists.....who are often broke. We have so much visual art in our house that it piles up on the floor. I just did a quick check: on the floor.....nicely propped up, mind you, and with tons of love and respect.....was an original Ansel Adams, an Edward Weston, a Martha Casenove, two Michael Kenna's and a bunch of other random stuff. The walls have Kim Weston's, a bunch of Michael Kenna's, some Conall Jones, some Rod Dresser, a couple of good Brendan Jones, a bunch of Ansels.......and Hilario.
Hilario lives next to a framed love letter and foto from Charles Stuart Parnell.....and right by the certificate that my great-grandfather got for saving a bunch of people in a storm in Ireland on Christmas Eve in 1898.
Hilario is family. Actually someone else's family....but he has been with us for so long that he is part of our fabric.
My buddy's daughter had her 25th wedding anniversary today. We did the wedding, back in the day. She was part of the original culinary uprising in Berkeley.....and by brother wound up editing the cookbooks of her mentor chef, Jeremiah Tower.
She said that she had organized fotos of the whole time and really wanted me to bring Hilario to the party to represent the history of the family.
So.......in the middle of all the normal chaos involved in catering.....we took Hilario down from his post, wrapped him in linen and took him down to the Trail and Saddle Club for the Anniversary.
We worried that it was a plot to recapture Hilario......like he should not have been given to us in the first place.....
We were poised to defend Hilario. Nicely, but firmly.
And no one remembered. And no one noticed. She forgot to bring fotos, just as she forgot our conversations of the previous week.
Hilario sat in the apron bag on the floor of the kitchen.......
Hilaro was seriously insulted.
Later.....I told the story to the girls.
Blair and Nike gave Hilario each a big kiss.....wrapped him in linen.....and put him back in the apron bag. He is right now back in his place next to Charles Stuart Parnell, just down from Ansel and great grandpop......and I detect a little shit-eating grin on the old guy.
He got some.
Meanwhile......my old friends were clueless.
As we drift towards forgetfulness......how much is being lost?
Hilario is neutral on the subject.
His neighbor, Charles Stuart Parnell.....got caught with a divorced woman, and the entire cause of Irish freedom got dumped in the shitter for fifty years, and a hundred thousand people died......but they both have shit eating grins.
And Hilario got kissed by Blair AND Nike.......
I think the old boy is good for another fifty years.......
I just hope someone remembers.